An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Gun 鯀

Jan 23, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Gun 鯀, also written 鮌, is a person in Chinese mythology and father of Yu the Great 大禹. He is said to have been a great-grandson of the Yellow Emperor 黃帝, a grandson of Luo Ming 駱明, and a son of Bai Ma 白馬, as the book Shanhaijing 山海經 says. He is a deity of the water and had the "shape of a white horse".

The Shanhaijing renders the following story: Once Gun stealt some earth belonging to the Celestial Emperor 天帝 in order to repair dams and dykes instead of digging out canals. For his theft, the Celestial Emperor ordered the fire god Zhu Rong 祝融 to kill Gun at Yuxiao 羽郊. Yet his corpse did not decay, and when it was opened with a knife, a dragon sprang out of his belly and ascended to the sky. The dragon was nobody else than Yu the Great. The body of Gun himself transformed into a yellow dragon (huanglong 黄龍 or bear hangxiong 黄熊, or another yellow animal huangneng 黄能) and disappeared in a well. The Yellow Emperor thereupon ordered Yu to accomplish the work of his father.

A passage in the elegy Tianwen 天問 of the collection Chuci 楚辭 "Poetry of the South" provides a similar story. In the Classic Shangshu 尚書, Gun is seen as one of the four evils (sixiong 四凶) that had to be extirpated by Emperor Shun 舜 and was killed at Mt. Yushan 羽山 (modern 郯城, Shandong).

Another name of him is Taowu 檮杌. He had been made Earl of Sui 祟伯 (or Chong 崇崇伯, modern Songxian 嵩縣, Henan).

The book Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 narrates a story in which Gun as one of the regional rulers (zhuhou 諸侯) questioned the transmission of imperial rule from Yao to Shun without considering the rights of Gun. He thereupon rebelled and transformed into a fierce animal but was killed by Emperor Shun.

Li Jianping 李劍平, ed. (1998). Zhongguo shenhua renwu cidian 中國神話人物辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 701.
Xiong Tieji 熊鐵基, Yang Youli 楊有禮, ed. (1994). Zhongguo diwang zaixiang cidian 中國帝王宰相辭典 (Wuhan: Hubei jiaoyu chubanshe), 8.
Yi Xingguo 衣興國, ed. (1988). Shiyong Zhongguo mingren cidian 實用中國名人辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 8.
Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 430.